When you decide to build a web app, there are typically two primary questions on your mind. Firstly, how much will it cost? Secondly, how long will it take?
Like anything you can build, the answer to those two questions depends heavily on many essential factors. For example, if you were building a house, you could build a 200-square-foot shack with no utilities on a tight budget over a weekend. However, if you're constructing an 8,000-square-foot estate with every luxurious feature you can imagine, it will take a lot more money and time.
How long it takes to build a web app depends on your project's scope, how streamlined your process is, how skilled your team is, and much more. All that being said, let's dive in and look at what you should expect when it comes to the timeline of developing a web app.
How long it takes you to build a web app depends on many different factors. For example, the nature of the project, the team you have building it, and the process you undertake can all impact how long building a web app takes from start to finish.
How effectively you and your team communicate can significantly influence how long a project takes. When you have clearly defined needs communicated to everyone involved, the process can be much more efficient. However, if there are communication issues or misunderstandings along the way, it can mean it takes longer for your web app to come to fruition.
When creating a new web app, it's easy to get excited about all of the different features and functions it could offer. However, this can lengthen development time and increase the cost of building a web app. While complexity might be necessary for some digital products, it can be good to take a minimalistic approach and focus on the features and functions that are truly necessary.
Building a web app can leave you with a bad case of decision-making fatigue. However, the ability to be decisive in the face of options is an essential step to a seamless web app creation process. It's worth building a clear sense of what you are looking for in terms of your app's layout, function, and aesthetics.
Many people try to save time in the development process by not committing time to the design and testing phase of building a web app. However, this will likely leave you with a product lacking in many crucial respects, either leaving you with a subpar finished product or sending you back to the drawing board all over again. At the end of the day, it's more efficient to get it right the first time.
While you might be looking for a very specific answer here, the reality is that how many hours it takes to develop a web app can vary significantly. Depending on the type of web app you're making, your desired final product, how many people you have working on it, and how efficient your workflow is, it can take anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand development hours.
Here's a breakdown of the average number of hours it takes to complete the various steps in the process:
It's worth noting that some of these stages can occur simultaneously. This means that the total completion time can be less than the sum of the parts.
The average length of time it takes to build both a front-end app and backend infrastructure is 4.5 months. However, how complex the web app is and how streamlined the development process is can mean that it takes more or less time in total.
Once you have built an in-house team or outsourced the development of your web app, it's worth understanding the steps that will need to be taken in the process.
Successful web apps are just like any other successful product– they help solve a problem that people have and are looking to fix. Whether you are building a web app as the product in itself or as a part of your larger business goals, having the right idea is the center point around which the rest of the project revolves.
The next step in the process is market research. You'll need to determine whether a similar product already exists and if there is an existing market for such a product. Make a list of your competitors and keep it somewhere that you'll be able to access later in the process.
There are countless tools you can use as a part of your market research. These include Google, patent and trademark search databases, Google Trends, SEO tools, social media, and more.
This is a crucial part of your journey. It can be easy to get so attached to an idea that it's difficult to accept that the market is saturated or that there simply isn't a market for the product you want to make. However, by investing in the market research phase, you can avoid costly mistakes down the road.
Once you have determined that your idea is good, it's time to start thinking about the app's features and functionality. Resist the urge to get too carried away in this part of the process, as it will take longer to build the web app the more functionality you add.
If you are having difficulty determining which features are necessary, step back and zero in on the problem you are trying to solve for your target market. From this vantage, you can better understand what will be useful to your audience and what will be dead weight in your app.
Now that you've made it to the drawing board, it's time to start with a rough sketch. You can do this the old-school way with a pencil and paper or use one of the many online tools available for web app design.
Some of the factors you'll want to consider when making your sketch include navigation, buttons, forms, branding, and any of the additional interactive elements you'll want to include.
This is a brainstorming session, so feel free to sketch out many different iterations of your web app. This can help you get a sense of how the design and functionality can work together.
During this process, don't forget to take notes to help remind you later of your decisions. However, it's important not to over-invest in this stage of the process either. Rather than creating a complex design at this point, try to stick with the nuts and bolts.
Looking for inspiration? Take a look at these examples of clean web app design.
Remember that list of competitors you made? It's now time to sign up for the free trials of your competition and spend some time exploring their products. Take notes about what you thought worked well and what was unnecessary or detracted from the app. During this process, you'll want to keep an eye on the workflow specifically.
Once you have had first-hand experience with your competitor's products, it's time to write down your app's workflows. You can consider several questions, such as how signup works, how users will log in, how they will navigate the app, and how they will pay for it. It's worth it to be thorough here and consider all the details, including whether you'll send a verification email after signup, how users can change their settings, and how users will change their password or cancel their subscription.
You'll also want to think about your pages and their different states. For example, you'll likely want to design two different states for certain pages, one for users that are logged in and one for users that are logged out or not yet signed up.
At this point, it's time to take the sketches you made and turn them into a wireframe and eventually a prototype. Your wireframe will essentially be your web app's blueprint, while the prototype takes things to the next level with interactivity involved.
There are a lot of different tools you can use to create a wireframe and a prototype for a web app. If you feel overwhelmed by the plethora of options for choosing software to aid your development process, check out our list of some of the best tools to wireframe and prototype your web app.
You've been making a lot of progress with your web app! At this point, you have a prototype that looks legit and has you all excited about creating a finished product. Let's just pull on the reins a little bit, though, and take the time to seek out some feedback.
You'll want to find people that fit within your target market and have them take a look at your prototype. Not only are you interacting with potential future customers, but you can access valuable constructive feedback that can help you make the right choices in the following parts of the process.
It's important to take notes during this time so you can refer to them later. Even if it's frustrating that some of your target audience doesn't seem to "get" the usefulness of some of the features, this is ultimately incredibly valuable information that can help you create a product that users will jive with.
There are a number of different types of databases you can choose between when it comes to running your web app. What your users need to do on your app and the data you need to store will help determine which type of database is right for your purposes.
The front-end of your web app is the visual element, and the backend is the databases, servers, and other aspects of your app that the user doesn't see. Of course, these two processes can happen simultaneously, but the back end is significantly more technical and complicated than the front end.
Now it's time for you to go through the final testing of your new web app. It's worth it to take the time and have users from your target demographic play around with your app and give you feedback. This way, you can make any little tweaks that are necessary before your launch.
Now that you've gotten to the point where your web app has been designed, built, tested, and approved, the last step is to release it into the world. Congratulations!
If you're starting from scratch in the web app game, building one can take significantly longer (and cost a lot more) than it would if you hired an experienced team. Depending on how much time you can commit to learning how to build a web app or how much money you want to put towards hiring an in-house team, you might find that outsourcing your web app development saves you time, resources, and stress.
At Planetary, we specialize in helping our clients take a great idea and bring it to life. With more than half a century of collective experience and more than one hundred projects completed for companies of all sizes, we love to turn incredible concepts into brilliant digital products. If this all sounds up your alley, get in touch and tell us about your newest project. We're so excited to get started on whatever it is you may have in mind!
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